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#4084: Poverty prevalent in Haiti (fwd)

From: Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>

C I N C I N N A T I   P O S T
Poverty prevalent in Haiti
Ellen Lord, Post staff reporter
Haiti is so poor and has so many problems that the restavek children who
inhabit the lowest haunts of society go virtually unnoticed.
Unemployment in Haiti is a staggering 60 to 70 percent. Three-fourths of the
people live in extreme poverty, earning much less than the per capita income
of $380 a year. More than 10 percent of children do not live past age 4.
Fewer than 45 percent of adults can read.
Many Haitians are ailing. Almost 30 percent are moderately or severely
underweight. Those who seek treatment may or may not find it. The General
Hospital of Port-au-Prince, where the indigent get help, was closed in
April - its staff on strike.
Crime in the cities is high enough and the 4-year-old Haitian National
Police (HNP) force weak enough that business and upper-class Haitians hire
security guards, who sit with shotguns across their laps outside of gas
stations, banks, restaurants, hotels and homes.
Driving on most roads, especially a new road to the airport in
Port-au-Prince, is like bumping along a dry creek bed. Residential plumbing
is a luxury; most city dwellers carry water several times a day from public
spigots or streams, where animals, cars and people tread. Small fires and
oil lamps light the early evening hours, even for those who supposedly have
electricity. The phone system is often overloaded and thus unavailable.
The few businesses that survive, besides banks for the rich and automotive
dealers and mechanics that do well, struggle with the extra costs of private
security, generators, cell phones, private reservoirs and slow
''We're really working on a thin rope. We have to really squeeze because of
extra expenses, '' said a businessman, who had an export business that
employed 100,000 Haitians before the embargo which began in the early 1990s.
''You are really left alone in this country. You have to do everything
Businesses have fled across the border to the Dominican Republic and
elsewhere in Latin America. The annual rate of inflation hit 25 percent from
1990 to 1997. (The Haitian gourde is now worth about a nickel.)
Despite the difficulties, life in the city appears to be conducted with a
casual ease - streets are jammed with traffic, but people rarely seem in a
Delmas Boulevard, the main road to the affluent Port-au-Prince neighborhood
Petion-ville, is a clamoring anthill. It is packed with Jeeps, vendors and
brightly colored tap-taps, transporting as many as 20 in the bed of their
Boys and men walk in between stopped and jerky traffic holding pouches of
water and bottles of Fruit Champagne for sale. Vendors line the sidewalks
peddling packaged crackers and motor oil, and passers-by are quick with a
''Bonjou'' and a generous smile.
Extended families assume their relatives will help themselves to what little
they have and are quick to offer friends a plate of food and a seat.
''We say that Haitians are a very rich culture. Despite their suffering,
despite their pain, there is a big smile to share,'' says Haitian journalist
Godfroy Boursiquot.
Publication date: 06-03-00